A new study has found that Lego products have "showed significant exponential increases of violence over time," as the Danish toymaker competes for the attention of children in the digital age.
Bricks with weapons are now included in 30 per cent of the brand's kits according to a the peer-reviewed study from New Zealand researchers at the University of Caterbury.
"The Lego company’s products are not as innocent as they used to be," reads the research, adding: "To catch the attention of their customers, toy manufacturers are similarly locked in a metaphorical arms race for exciting new products. In this race they do not only compete with other toy manufacturers but also with television and video games, which have also become more violent over the years."
Lego has been including weapons like swords and axes in its kits since 1978, but the paper found that these have steadily become more commonplace, with a higher proportion found among the manufacturer's building blocks and themed kits.
Further analysis of Lego catalogues from 1973 through to 2015 found the scenarios depicted had also become more violent; 40 per cent of all pages displaying some type of violence – in particular, images involving shooting and threatening behavior.
The study noted that Lego is reflecting a broader trend in kids' entertainment, and said that the atmosphere of the violent acts is "predominantly perceived as exciting".
Lego spokesman Troy Taylor said the company’ products promoted a range of play activities such as construction, fantasy and conflict.
“As with other play types, conflict play is a natural part of a child’s development,” he said, adding: “We always try and use humour where possible as it helps tone down the level of conflict."
Lego has posted strong growth for the past 11 years, thanks to tie ups with brands like Star Wars and Jurassic World. It also has a portfolio of videogame titles and last year inked a deal to release two kids TV shows on Netflix.